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Time for an Economic Bill of Rights
by Mark Kato
07 Jun 2005
It is time for the Democratic Party to put up or shut up by making an Economic Bill of Rights an enduring element of it national platform.
Time for an Economic Bill of Rights
By Mark Kato
The call for an economic Bill of Rights is not a new idea. FDR made such a proposal in his 1944 State of the Union address to Congress. He said:
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of "rightist reaction" in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.
I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.
Our fighting men abroad- and their families at home- expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying.”
It is time for the Democratic Party to adopt an Economic Bill of Rights along these lines as part of its enduring compact with the working people of the United States. We hold the Democratic Party to live up to its “vision” for America, as stated in the preamble to “The 2004 Democratic National Platform for America.”
"In offering this vision, we affirm our faith in the greatness of America. We recommit to the ideal of a people united in helping one another, an ideal as old as the faiths we follow and as great as the country we love. To those who are threatened, we pledge protection; to those who are victims, we promise justice; to those who are hopeless, we offer hope. And to all Americans who seek a better future for themselves, for their loved ones, and for our country, we say: your cause is our own.”
Every fair-minded, freedom-loving democrat should let their representatives in both houses of congress know that this is what we want from them. This is what we demand from them, and we will settle for nothing less than their commitment to work with all of their energy to make an Economic Bill of Rights a reality in this country.
Please feel free to forward this piece to all members of congress and to reproduce it anywhere without condition except the inclusion of attribution to the author.